“Where has the western church gone wrong and when did it occur?”
“Where has the western church gone wrong and when did it occur (in your opinion)?”
I thought I would put my answer here for others to discuss. How would YOU answer this question? Yours for the least in the Kingdom, Jeff
Dear Mark, Great Question. I wish more people would ask it.
My opinion is that “early on” things went wrong. It was really inescapable. The question is: Do we have to live today under the ramifications of those failings?
Start with Paul.
In Ephesus, Paul prophesied that from within their own ranks (ie. elders) men would distort the truth to draw away their own followers. (Acts 20). He also said “All in Asia left me…” towards the end of his life. Maybe this was hyperbole, but he said it nevertheless…
John had his own troubles with different leaders. Take Diotrephes, who “loved to be first and would have nothing to do with us”. He also cast his negative influences upon other churches.
Death of the Apostles
I think after this, the first major problems sprang up after the death of the first real apostles, the ones chosen by Jesus either directly or like Paul and Timothy, Silas, Luke, etc.
Someone, somewhere along the way started to declare himself a type of “senior elder” which would later become “senior bishop”, which later became the Pope.
In a heroic effort to fight heresy and the unravelling of the church, Ignatius declared that the Bishop was equal to God! “I exhort you to be careful to do all things in the unity of God, since the Bishop sits in the place of God…” (St. Ignatius’ Epistle to the Ephesians 6:1). Ignatius coined the famous expression: “Where the Bishop is, there is the Church”. He himself should know, I guess, being the Bishop of Antioch!
The Influence of Greek Ideas
The second major problem was as the gospel spread to the Greek world it took on more and more of an “intellectual” religion, with creeds and “I believe…” statements rather than a group of followers in a Risen Christ. I found the book The Influence of Greek Ideas on Christianity by Edwin Hatch excellent in bring up these issues.
“They were a nation of talkers. They were almost the slaves of cultivated expression…. Like children playing at ‘make-believe’…It was impossible for Greeks, educated as they were with an education which penetrated their whole nature, to receive or to retain Christianity in its primitive simplicity. It necessarily gave to Christianity something of its own form.” (Hatch)
Constantine the Great?
The third major problem sprang up with Constantine the Great, as he consolidated his empire by piggy-backing on the newly freed Christians. Lots of skeletons in his closets!! He really brought us church as we know it today: a special meeting in a holy place on a holy day brought to us by a holy man for a holy price, etc. He made Sunday the official holiday of his kingdom and overnight demanded that the temples be full. “Conversions” by the sword were common.
Unfortunately, most people start with Constantine but I think that is short sided. He merely exasperated an already festering problem.
A couple of links to other stuff I wrote re. this question.